Small Business Grows With Help From Mission Agency

By: Sarah Haughey
Special to The Examiner
October 31, 2010

Dream come true: Patricia Torres stands in the doorway of her new shop, Mystical Collections, which sells holistic and New Age products, inside El Mercadito market. (Mike Koozmin/Special to The Examiner)

Patricia Torres, an East Bay mother of two, saw her dreams of being a small-business owner come true when her store, Mystical Collections, opened within El Mercadito — a market-style space at Plaza Adelante in the Mission district.

The Mission Economic Development Agency has converted the former furniture store into what Executive Director Luis Granados calls a small-business incubator, which currently houses nine small businesses. Through its business development program, MEDA helps low-income Hispanic immigrants such as Torres build and cultivate a business.

“Everyone started the same way with nothing, but MEDA is making our dreams come true,” Torres said. “They call this an incubator because it doesn’t stop with this opening; MEDA still gives us guidance. Once we’re prepared enough, we can fly away and have our own stores.”

The inspiration behind Torres’ shop, which features holistic and New Age products, was her son, who suffers from learning disabilities. After he had adverse reactions to his medications several years ago, Torres began looking for alternatives that would help him.

“I wanted to find something that would help him spiritually,” Torres said. “Once I saw they were working I thought, if these can help him, then they can help others.”

Torres said her whole family, including her son, daughter and husband, collaborated on the name Mystical Collections. Selling herbs, teas, candles, healing crystals and books in both English and Spanish, Torres’ store has something to help the mind, body and spirit.

Mystical Collections is sandwiched between a children’s boutique and a Spanish T-shirt shop owned by other entrepreneurs who Torres now considers family.

“This is not just about me, it’s about everyone. We’re like a family, we all share and care about each other,” the small-business owner said. “Coming here, I feel like I’m in the right spot. I’m meant to be here.”

According to an Oct. 22 report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed San Francisco as having an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, but the opening of El Mercadito is a step in the right direction for small businesses in this economy.

“Small businesses are the backbone of San Francisco’s economy,” said Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California, a business advocacy group. “Anything that promotes the Development and creation of small business enterprises is positive to The City’s economy. This sends a message throughout San Francisco that The City is interested in development of new small businesses.”

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